#PhotoOfMyLife Day5 #Christmas Flower and Books #TuesdayBookBlog

This is a picture of a small table in my living room. We don’t often use it as a dinner table, because we have lunch in the kitchen, which is quite large.

Right now I have a Christmas flower, or poinsettia, in the centre of the table. In Spain, where I live, it’s traditional to have at least one of these beautiful plants at home during the Christmas season, because it is said to bring good luck, but you can’t buy it yourself, it must be a present. My son bought this for me yesterday.

In fact, all the objects on the table hold sentimental value. The little crochet table mats were made by my grandmother over sixty years ago! The glass animals perched on the mats were a present from my Spanish friend, Toñi.There’s a bowl of sand I gathered from my favourite beach and some sea shells I picked up with my grandchildren during the summer holidays. The pottery paper weights were made by Gertraud, a dear friend from Germany, and the pink sand in the glass candle holder was brought from Antigua, by Anna, another dear friend from England, whose sister lives on the island. I brought the table runner from my father’s home, after he passed away, eleven years ago.

The things I own are only as valuable as the sentimental value they have for me, which can be immediate, when they’re presents, or they can become meaningful over the years for other reasons.

There are three Christmas themed paperbacks on the table, I’d like to tell you about.

I haven’t yet read the top two, although I’m planning to do so this month. The first one is The Christmas Card by Dilly Court It’s described as The perfect heartwarming romance for Christmas, rich in historical detail.

The second book is Christmas at Claridges by Karen Swan which is described as a glamorous contemporary romance.

The third book is Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, the second novel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy, which started with All Hallows at Eyre Hall which was recently completed with Midsummer at Eyre Hall.

Twelfth Night takes place during mostly in December and January 1866. One of the major plot points in the novel takes place during the festivities of 5th January, Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is my favourite novel in the trilogy, because I had such fun writing it!

It’s a historical romance including a murder mystery, a kidnapping, a visit to Victorian London, a long sea voyage to Jamaica with pirates included, passion, love, hate, betrayal and lots of dark family secrets, some of which are uncovered, while others are resolved in book three.

Are you reading any Christmas themed novels this year?

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The rules for this Twitter Challenge: no people, no explanations and challenge one new person every day. I was challenged by @GeorgiaRoseBook check out her blog.

Today I challenge @_ElizabethHein check out her book blog.

As I already told you, I’m terrible at following rules, so not only have I told you all about the picture, I’ve also recommended some books to check out!

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Are you reading any Christmas themed novels?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: Victorian Orphans Cracking Rocks

This post was written in response to Charli Mills’ weekly fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch.

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This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road. It can be physical, adding to a plot twist, or it can be metaphorical for a barrier or hardship. Go where you find the rock.  All writers are welcome!

As usual, the prompt has taken me back in time, to Victorian England, once again.

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Cracking rocks and other chores

‘You’ll get up at 5, carry hot water and light the hearths in all the bedrooms.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘After breakfast, you’ll empty the latrines and make the beds.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then you’ll prepare lunch and do the laundry.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Such a pretty girl, but so frail.’ He smiled maliciously. ‘The master may use you for other chores.’ 

Let him try, I thought.

He wasn’t to know I had worked cracking rocks with a heavy hammer all day, until I splintered the forman’s skull when he put his hand down my breeches and discovered I wasn’t frail at all.

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Children from the age of eight were exploited sexually and in the workplace in Victorian England. It wasn’t unusual for young girls to disguise themselves as men in order to do male chores, or escape male attention. On other occasions, it was the men who were disguised as women to do women’s chores. In any case, children, often abandoned orphans, trying to survive in large cities, had to learn to fend for themselves from an early age, or perish. This is another post, including flash fiction, I wrote about Oliver Twist and the subject of child labour and orphaned children in Victorian England.

In this flash, the narrator is a girl, who had been disguised as a boy while she had worked cracking rocks. She reverted to her female role and clothes to escape being caught as a murderer. Her new master would do well not to believe she’s unable to defend herself!

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In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, my sequel to Jane Eyre, Susan and Michael Kirkpatrick were orphans, who Jane Eyre employed at Eyre Hall, when they were 14 and 16, respectively. They had been living in a workhouse in London, as many orphaned children at the time. The following paragraphs are taken from All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Michael narrates this passage some years later, as an adult, recalling how Jane, like many other wealthy people living in rural areas, was unaware of life in a London workhouse.

It’s a moving and important extract, because Michael also describes the moment he fell in love with Jane, when he was a young boy. Although Michael had been obsessed with Jane from the first time he saw her at the age of fourteen, Jane didn’t fall in love with Michael until he was an adult and her husband lay on his death bed. Their love affair brings great heartache and trauma to both of them, but they manage to overcome all the emotional and physical demons they face.

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“Have you ever worked?” she asked us, and Susan told her we had done the workhouse chores, such as oakam breaking, which made our fingers bleed. She had not heard of it before, so Susan told her how we had to tease out fibres from old ropes to produce lots of thin loose fibres. “Whatever for?” she asked, quite aghast, and Susan told her the strings were later sold to shipbuilders, where they were mixed with tar and used to seal the lining of wooden vessels.

Susan told her I was a strong boy and used to hard work, because I often cracked granite rocks with a heavy hammer ten hours a day. Again she asked, horror-struck, for the reasons, Susan told her the chippings were carted away by older men, who were not strong enough to crack them, and were then probably used in construction works. Susan proudly explained that with the pennies earned, usually not a shilling a day between us, we were able to buy food, some clothes, and borrow books and magazines to read by candlelight.

When she asked how long we had been there, Mrs. Rochester was again appalled to hear we had been there for two years, since our mother had died. She asked her about our life prior to our mother’s death, and Susan explained we had lived in a rented room in Morton.

She looked at me sadly and asked if I did not speak, and I could only gaze at her face and think how very kind and beautiful she was. Susan told her I was shy, but that I spoke, read, and wrote very well, because our mother had taught both of us to do so. My mistress put her hand up to my face, lightly touching my cheek, and sighed, looking straight into my eyes, as if she were searching for something. It was the moment I fell under her spell. No one had ever touched me like that before, with such concern and affection, not even my mother, who had been too sad and overworked to bestow such warmth. Then Mrs. Rochester spoke to Susan and said someone would teach us our new jobs at her house.

Today is Charles Dickens birthday (February 7th, 1812). I’m not going to praise him yet again, because you all know how important his work is for World Literature and my own literary mind. He also makes a personal appearance in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, and is a vital part of Jane’s recovery in Midsummer at Eyre Hall, although he is no longer physically present.

Here I am beside Charles Dickens’ portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a few months ago.

with-charles-dickens

There are so many things I could say and so many words I could quote to honour Charles Dickens’ memory today,  but I’ve decided to include the following quote, which is not my favourite, but it’s appropriate for a happy day like today!

charles_dickens_quote_2

Hope you’re all having a wonderful 7th of February!

#Book #Launch! Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Launch Day has arrived at last!

Those of you who have pre-ordered will receive a copy on your kindles, and those of you who haven’t bought it yet, can do so and download it and start reading at once!

Midsummer Billboard

It’s on special offer at 0.99 as a kindle ebook. The paperback version will be coming out later this month.

The three novels can be read as standalones, except perhaps book one All Hallows at Eyre Hall because it ends on a mini-cliffhanger, so if you read book one you will need to read books two and three!

Book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall can be read as a standalone, but again, you’ll want to read book three, although it does not end in a cliffhanger.

In order to get the best reading experience it would be best to read the trilogy in order, but feel free to skip around. There are no rules for readers!

 

Banner and Lucy

I’m very excited about completing the trilogy, and although I’ve written ‘The End’, I’m already thinking about novellas and short stories related to the characters and events which appear throughout the trilogy. I’ve actually started a sequel to my sequel, which may be a novella or it may become a full-length novel. Time will tell.

Pick up your copy, or even the three copies!

They’re all on offer at 0.99 each for the Launch!

You’ll have plenty of time to read this summer.

I promise you will be enthralled in this gripping trilogy:)

Midsummer museum

Rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian, Gothic Romance in this breathtaking sequel to Jane Eyre.

Readers will be transported from the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire coutryside, to Victorian London, across the Atlantic Ocean and the Sargasso sea to Colonial Jamaica, and finally to magical Cornwall.

Adventure, suspense, mystery and passion unfold as the original characters come to life once again, interacting with a host of new ones to ceate an intertextual narrative, which will chronicle the lives of the inhabitants of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

International Buy Link: http://authl.it/B01EEN6RK0

7 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall: On planning and pantsing

Many things have been happening during these bloggingly silent months, and I have an important announcement to make.

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are seven days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day to celebrate my achievement.

 

3 COVERS

 

The idea of writing a sequel to Jane Eyre in order to revindicate Bertha Mason and uncover Rochester’s real nature, opening many eyes, including Jane Eyre’s, had been taking shape in my imagination for a few years before I put pen to paper.

On a warm, sunny day, towards the end of June 2013, I sat in my garden with my brand new PC, and started pantsing my novel.

I had a location: Thornfield Hall had been burnt down and Jane had inherited a great deal of money from her uncle, so she had built another more modern country house on the same spot: Eyre Hall. It had neither an attic nor a rookery.

I had a setting: Twenty-two years after Jane and Rochester’s marriage, while Rochester is on his death-bed.

I had an antagonist: My first scene was crystal clear; Richard Mason would arrive at Eyre Hall, causing havoc in Jane’s life once again. He was Bertha’s brother, the man who had interrupted Rochester’s first bigamous marriage attempt in Jane Eyre.

I had the catalyst: This time he had a more shocking revelation. Bertha had given birth to a baby girl in the attic, whom Richard had removed to Jamaica under Rochester’s orders. Annette Mason was twenty-two years old and ready to claim her birthright. Annette is the most vital character in the novel. Without Annette there would be no Eyre Hall Trilogy.

I had the anti-hero: Rochester was responsible for Jane’s ‘unhappy marriage’, and the tragic events which will ensue, due to his crimes and misconduct.

And of course  I had my dear protagonist: Jane Eyre. She is the link to all the other characters and events. The trilogy is concerned with the way in which she will react to the events and other characters, and how her fate will develop as a result.

My characters were strong and well-defined in my mind, so I just made them interact and talk to each other and the story gradually grew.

My first surprise was that more characters appeared of their own accord, right from chapter one. The most significant was an unplanned and unexpected hero, who emerged, and practically took over my novel and Jane’s life, on page two; Michael.

More characters appeared, interacted and events started to get out of hand. I soon realised two things I hadn’t counted on:

1) I needed a plan, and  2) one novel wasn’t going to be enough.

So about a third of the way into book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I planed the rest of the first novel and outlined the next two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Needless to say, my early plans have changed drastically along the way, but even though plans change, you need a plan as well as an open mind.

It’s been a fascinating adventure. Months of research, reading, rereading, writing, rewriting, editing, discussing, fretting, and 280,000 words later, I have finished my journey, or not?

 

Letter R & S #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre Rebirth and Sequel

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. I’m going to discuss Jane Eyre’s Rebirth and Sequel in the Eyre Hall Trilogy.

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The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a three-part sequel to Jane Eyre.

My aim was to pay tribute to Charlotte Bronte and so many other Victorian authors, whom I consider my literary Masters.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy owes its existence to the following 19th century literary geniuses in no particular order:

The Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, George Elliott, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Tennyson, Hardy, Wilde, de Quincy, and Jane Austen.

I have aimed to write an enjoyable Gothic Romance, which makes suspenseful and exciting reading for contemporary audiences.

Readers will encounter many of the original characters in Jane Eyre once again, but this series will also bring to life many new and intriguing ones, spinning a unique and absorbing narrative.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is now complete:

Banner and Lucy

Book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, takes place twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, and Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica to disclose more secrets and ruin her happiness once again, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other sins. Mason’s revelations, and the arrival Bertha’s daughter, Miss Annette Mason, will turn Jane’s world turned upside down.

Reading All Hallows

Book 2, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, moves the action on after Edward Rochester’s death. Jane Eyre, who has been blackmailed into marrying a man she despises, will have to cope with the return of the man she loved and lost. The secrets she has tried so hard to conceal must be disclosed, giving rise to unexpected events and more shocking revelations. This time, the  action will move from the Yorkshire countryside, to Victorian London, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Colonial Jamaica.

Telfth Night Bilboard Night

Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is available for pre-order and will be launched on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day, is the final part of the trilogy.

The first part of Midsummer at Eyre Hall is very dramatic and action-packed. Jane will find herself in completely unexpected and dreadful circumstances, which neither she, nor the reader would ever imagine, so I can’t say much more!

The second part begins to show some improvement in her situation and contains more surprises, including two new characters, who will drastically change Jane’s life forever.

In this final installment, Jane will undertake perilous physical and emotional journeys across England, from Yorkshire, to magical Cornwall, and Victorian London. She will discover who her friends and enemies are, and she will have to make challenging and drastic decisions, which will affect everyone on the Rochester Estate.

I hope the reader will find the end is satisfactory, although the final outcome is happier for some characters than for others…

Magazine Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Check out the Eyre Hall Trilogy on Amazon US and Amazon UK

For those living in Spain you can also purchase paperback versions at http://www.libroseningles.com/

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For those of you who have read books 1 and 2, would like an ARC of Midsummer at Eyre Hall, it will be available at the beginning of June.

Please let me know if you’d like to be the first to read it 🙂

Help me Choose my Cover for Midsummer at Eyre Hall, Please!

Hi all!

I’ve been neglecting my blog and my flash fiction challenges lately, because I’ve been finishing my third novel, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which is also the final instalment of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, which is due to be published on 21st June, Midsummer’s Day!

I’ve asked the person who designed the first two novels to design the third, and I’m afraid I’m confused. I don’t know which one I like. I don’t even know if I like any of them, and I was wondering if you could help me choose or change.

Just to let you know, the title refers to the final chapter where there is a reunion in summer at Eyre Hall. The novel has many dramatic moments, although the ending is mostly optimistic, but not for all the characters. I wanted to transmit tranquility and closure on a bright summer’s day.

Check out the covers for my first two novels on the right to compare.

I asked for a similar style using the same/similar model.

It’s the designer’s first suggestion, so there will be more based on my feedback.

Here are the initial covers:

Midsummer at Eyre Hall 1 Midsummer at Eyre Hall 2 Midsummer at Eyre Hall 3

What do you think?

Thank you for your help!

Hope you have a great Easter break 🙂

My beautiful #JaneEyre

Was Jane Eyre Plain or Pretty?

Some readers of The Eyre Hall Trilogy have considered that my Jane Eyre is too beautiful, arguing that Charlotte Bronte drew an ugly, or at least plain young girl.

When I read (and reread) Jane Eyre, Jane is/was never ugly in my mind, and I have proof that she was never ugly in Charlotte Bronte’s mind either.

Jane Eyre had quite a few antagonists in her autobiography, some of which were also her direct enemies, and therefore described her negatively.

For instance, her Aunt Reed called her ‘deceitful’ and said she had a bad character, and the servants at her aunt’s house said she behaved like a ‘mad cat’.

Her cousins, Georgina and John, called her ‘impudent’, ‘rat’, and ‘thief’.

While Jane was at Lowood Institution, Mr. Brockelhurst called her a ‘liar’ and ‘evil’, however that doesn’t mean any of these descriptions were true. In fact we know there were plenty of liars in Jane Eyre, who seemed to revel in demeaning her, leading to her obvious lack of self-esteem throughout most of Jane Eyre.

Jane_Eyre-Joan_Fontaine-1

We know Jane was honest, sensible, generous and intelligent.

When she arrived at Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester refered to her as ‘plain’ on more than once occasion.

Part of the misinterpretation comes from the use of the word ‘plain’ in the novel.The word ‘plain’ has led some readers to interpret that Jane was ugly, yet ‘plain’ does not mean ‘ugly’.

What does ‘plain’ mean in Jane Eyre?

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Plain as poor.

Mr. Brocklehurst’s daughter, Augusta, says of the girls at Lowood,

‘Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks—they are almost like poor people’s children!

jane-eyre-2

Here plain clearly means that their clothes and hairstyle is simple and poor. Brocklehurst’s daughters were wearing curled hair with ribbons, and dresses with lace and trimmings. The girls at Lowood were ugly because they were plainly dressed.

In the following extract, Jane herself says she dresses plainly because she is poor,

I rose; I dressed myself with care: obliged to be plain— for I had no article of attire that was not made with extreme simplicity.

  • Plain as honest and truthful.

Plain is also used in the novel to mean ‘unvarnished truth’ Mrs. Fairfax is described as addressing Jane with ‘plain friendliness’

jane_eyre_7611_crop

When Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield Hall, she was a poor, naïve, unworldly young girl, who had lived within the walls of Lowood institution for eight years. Jane was indeed poor and plain because she had no money and very little self-confidence or knowledge of the world.

When Mr. Rochester said she was plain, he meant it as ‘no frills’, simple, poor, and honest. He didn’t mean she was ugly.

Plain is used to describe her clothes, hair, etc. as simple, with no adornments.

Yet, when she first arrives at Eyre Hall, Rochester calls her a ‘nonnette’ which is a small gingerbread cake made of honey and usually orange marmalade. That’s hardly an ugly thing. It suggests reddish tinges to her hair, small, and sweet.

When Rochester says, in his famous marriage proposal,

‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband…’

He is echoing her words, meaning he loves her just as she is. She’s not wealthy, or from a noble family, or stunningly dressed, as Blanche Ingram (in the picture below) was, but she is honest and unspoilt. He loves her the way she sees herself, not only as he sees her.

Blanche

In fact, once Rochester has proposed, her self-worth has changed drastically. Jane calls herself beautiful. The following morning she says,

While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no longer plain: there was hope in its aspect and life in its colour; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple.

Later, when she goes downstairs to speak to Mr. Rochester he says,

‘Jane, you look blooming, and smiling, and pretty,’ said he: ‘truly pretty this morning. Is this my pale, little elf? Is this my mustard-seed? This little sunny-faced girl with the dimpled cheek and rosy lips; the satin-smooth hazel hair, and the radiant hazel eyes?’ (I had green eyes, reader; but you must excuse the mistake: for him they were new- dyed, I suppose.)

Wedding

Later, when Jane has fled from Thornfield Hall on discovering that Mr. Rochester is married, and that his wife is lodged in the attic above her room, she meets her cousins in Morton.  While Jane is staying at Moore House with her cousins Mary, Diana, and St. John, she tells Diana,

‘And I am so plain, you see, Diana. We should never suit.’

Jane has once more lost her self-esteem. She is telling Diana that she is not worldly or sophisticated enough to be her cousin’s wife, but Diana replies,

‘Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta.’

There is no doubt that Jane was a short and thin young girl, probably due to lack of nourishing food, in an Institution where many girls dies of sickness and malnutrition, but I also have no doubt that she would have grown into the beautiful, healthy, intelligent and confident woman, who appears in my novels.

Jane 2

In The Eyre Hall Trilogy, Jane has grown into a wealthy and self-assured woman, so she has the clothes, jewels, security, and intelligence to be beautiful. I have maintained her physical characteristics, she is short and slim, her eyes are still green, as she says they are in Jane Eyre, and her hair is auburn, as Rochester described it, too.

Jane is as beautiful in The Eyre Hall Trilogy as she was in Jane Eyre, if some readers didn’t capture her beauty that, it’s their problem, not mine or Charlotte Bronte’s!

Michael says of Jane while he is her valet at Eyre Hall in All Hallows at Eyre Hall:

I am in love with a lady who has lively green eyes, pale cream skin, rosy round cheeks, smooth wavy auburn hair and soft coral lips.

One of my favouriter actresses to play the part of my mature Mrs. Rochester, is Rachel Weisz.

Rachel+Weisz+78th+Annual+Academy+Awards+sRe4GhQudfgl

My favourite description of my Jane Eyre, is found in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, when Charles Dickens visits Eyre Hall and gifts us with this eloquent description of the mature Jane Eyre, the woman I’m sure she would have become,

We sat drinking brandy after dinner by the fire. It was a restful moment after such an intense conversation. I examined my host. Jane’s pale complexion and delicate frame stood in stark contrast to her confident movements and assertive manner, which denoted a remarkable strength and serenity of character. Her flawless features fit perfectly in her heart–shaped face. Her dainty fingers and soft hands caressed her dress distractedly as she watched the fire. Her russet hair was tamed with several pretty hair clips, and her inquisitive green eyes held a gentle gleam when they rested on mine. She was one of those fortunate women who grow more beautiful as they age. Her voice was soft and melodious and her manner charming. It was a pleasure to be in her company.

So, Dear Reader, do you still think Jane Eyre was ugly?

How to Write a #Novel #MondayBlogs

How I write: A Descriptive (not Prescriptive) account of my Writing Process

A. Mulling: The Creative Phase

Before I actually start my formal planning, laid out below, I’ve been thinking of my novel, talking to my characters, and outlining loosely, for months, or even years…

I’ve ‘seen’ what will occur, how it will begin and end, and I’ve run through the main events in my mind. I also have plenty of handwritten notes, some scenes have been written or outlined, and I have plenty of ideas, which I need to organize in some way, otherwise my writing becomes too erratic.

I soon realized I needed to give it a shape I can visualize as a whole and handle in small chunks.

This is the organizational method I’ve found has worked for me in my three novels.

B. Organising: A Three-part Outline

I love Vonnegut’s quote:

Vonnegut

Basically, Jane gets into some trouble, then she get’s into more trouble, and finally, she gets out of it… or not?

I divide my novel in the following three parts:

Part I or Exposition:

Jane gets into trouble.

Including Plot point one, also referred to as the tipping point or the inciting incident, which sets the action going. The reader will find out where and when the action takes place (context), what the book’s about (genre), and who the main characters are, and what they want. The main character will suffer the first major onslaught.

Part II The Story Unfolds:

Jane get’s into even more trouble.

Then comes plot point two, where the story starts to unfold and something happens to change direction or add to the crisis, leading to the climax, where the events move faster. Conflict is in the open. Secrets revealed. there is no turning back and the main character is in another or greater, complex dilemma.

The Final Outcome or denouement:

Jane gets out of trouble, but… not completely… yet (because I’ve written a trilogy). 

Many types of novel, such as romantic, mystery, suspense, or detective, will have a happy, or satisfactory ending for the main characters. Other types of novels such as what is referred to as literary fiction, may have a more sombre or open ending. My novels include both types of endings.

In any case, I always make sure there’s another conflict or obstacle just before the end, to nudge the reader, so he/she doesn’t get too complacent!

C. Zooming in: Chapters

I plan ten chapters per part. This isn’t a strict rule for me, but it gives me a sense of balance and security, so I start with it. Some of my parts have more or less chapters in the final version.

chapter

My Chapter Outlines

I outline the chapter including the following points:
First I establish an aim. Why is this chapter here? What does it add to the plot or story?
I establish the narrator (POV), because my novels have various narrators.
I identify the other participants.
I summarize the main events, which happen or are discussed.
I usually write some of the dialogue.
I often add pictures.
I establish the research needed.

I write it all down often by hand, sometimes it’s typed, and all of it, including photographs, research notes etc., are all included into punched plastic filing sleeves, which I put into a ring binder, in consecutive order.

I never write chronologically. I write some of the events first. The ones I see more clearly, in no particular order and put them into the sleeve. Sometimes I start or write parts of chapters and return at a later date because the rest of the action will depend on other chapters, or because I can’t ‘see’ how it will continue, and I need to think it through.

I never sit and look at a blank page or screen. I’ve thought about and taken notes before I write, and if I ‘get stuck’ I get up and do something else. Sometimes I go for a walk and think about it, or I write another chapter, or I read something for inspiration, usually something by Dickens, or Jane Eyre (I could reread them forever!), or I just leave it and get on with the rest of my life! Sleeping on it often helps.

As I let the characters do the talking and listen closely, the story is alive and goes through many changes, such as, chapter orders, narrator, etc. I even scrap or merge some chapters, or realize I need another chapter I hadn’t thought of, etc.

D. The First Draft: The hard slog 😦

Lisa

Once my novel is all there, in bits and pieces, classified in plastic sleeves, I gradually type out the messy contents, again in no particular order, wherever my inspiration or mood takes me. I do this on a kindle template and make sure I back it up on my memory stick and at least two PCs.

When I finally finish my first draft, it looks decidedly messy, and there are some ‘gaps’ or incomplete chapters, but it’s all there, at last. So now I need to get back to it chronologically. I print it all out and make hand written notes to fill in the spaces, improve, add, remove, rewrite, etc..

This is the hardest part, but it’s also the most satisfactory, because when I finish I have a novel (more or less).

E. Second and Subsequent Drafts.

This is the point where I start setting up the publishing process.

I can upload my novel for pre-order, I have three months to upload the final version.

I contact my editor to book dates, cover designer, beta readers, and I start thinking about/planning a marketing strategy, and I apply for my ISBN.

Finally, I start panicking and working to a strict timeline, to force myself to complete the novel in 4-5 weeks.

I read it through again, chronologically and critically, to make sure it flows and search for inconsistencies, etc.
There is a lot of work at this stage, and I usually need to make changes or do some more writing.

When I’m reasonably pleased with the second draft, I reread it aloud, and make more, usually minor, changes.
This third draft is the point I usually send it to my beta readers and wait.

F. Tinkering

Hard writing

The novel’s all there, but there are lots of little things such as, typos, small inconsistencies, things which need clarification for the reader, so I tinker again after my beta readers’ feedback.

For example I changed the ending, by adding a final short scene, just a few pages, in my second book, due to my beta readers’ suggestions, and even eliminated a minor character, whom they convinced me was superfluous.

Then it goes to my editor, who makes some more suggestions, and I make some more decisions and tinker again.

My fifth and final version goes to my editor again for a second edit, which is really the ‘proof read’, because I’m not making any more changes at this stage, mainly to preserve my mental health!

I write my first draft in a kindle template, so I don’t need to do too much in the way of formatting, but it takes time to upload, check, and recheck the final version on Amazon.

G. Promoting and Marketing.

This actually comes way before now, at least four to 6 weeks before it’s published, although it starts happening nearer to the publishing date and after. It includes planning Blog tours, cover reveals, interviews, guest posts, and booking advertising spots on online sellers, contacting readers / fans (I have a few lovely, loyal readers who get ARCs), etc.

Sounds tough? That’s because it is.

If writing seems hard it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.’ William Zinser, author of, On Writing Well.

Why do writers write? Easy, because we can’t not write.

Hell

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing…” Robert Hass

In other words:

“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” Kafka.

Monster

So, please don’t be a monster, keep writing and finish your novel!

How do you write your novels?

#TwelfthNight in Victorian England

Today is Twelfth Night. It is the last day of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which began on the 25th of December.

It is literally the twelfth night after December 25, so it is celebrated on the night of January 5th, the night before the Epiphany, or the coming of the Three Kings, Wise Men or Maggi to visit the new born baby Jesus on January 6.

 

Epiphany

Traditionally, it was, and still is, on this night that the Christmas tree and decorations are taken down, supposedly to avoid bad luck during the year ahead.

In Victorian England, Twelfth Night was celebrated with parties and festivities. Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol did much to reinforce popular Christmas traditions, as did Queen Victoria, and her husband Prince Albert, who brought many customs from his native Germany.

As early as 1849 (six years after A Christmas Carol was published) it was reported that Queen Victoria and the royal family celebrated Twelfth Night with an evening at the theatre and a famous twelfth cake made especially for the occasion. Yet in the 1870s, Queen Victoria banned Twelfth-Night festivities because they were becoming too rowdy.

More about the Victorian Twelfth Night Cake here:

12th-night-cake

There’s more information about the origin of Christmastide celebrations and the Epiphany in another blog post I wrote last year.

As you know, My second novel is called Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, because the action revolves on and around that date. There’s a very important event that occurs on that day at Eyre Hall, but I’m afraid I can’t include a full extract because it contains a huge spoiler, but I can offer a few paragraphs for your entertainment.

BookCoverPreview.do

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Chapter XVI

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

The morning after Twelfth Night, Eyre Hall woke up to an alarming blizzard. I had risen and was looking out to the vast whiteness where no shape, human, animal or natural, could be discerned due to the snowy curtain pouring down. I pitied anyone who would have to leave the house in such weather.

I turned my thoughts to Michael, in London. No doubt, the weather as always, was kinder there. I wondered if he had found Helen, and how soon he would return. He had said by Twelfth Night, so I was looking forward to his arrival shortly. The snow might slow down his journey, but it was a small impediment for such a tenacious person. I wondered wistfully as Nell helped me dress, if we could ever be together as any couple who are in love, but we were not any couple. There were so many obstacles in our way, although now, more than ever, I was sure our future was entwined, and we would find a way to overcome all the complications.

I was shaken by cries coming from Mr. Mason’s room. Seconds later Annette rushed in ….

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Quote by Booktips

So, tomorrow Christmas is over, the decorations are taken down, the Christmas lights are turned off, and the New Year begins in earnest. Short, chilly days and long cold nights await us.

Plenty of hard work to make our New Years’ resolutions become a reality await us…

I wish you all good luck, good health, happiness, and success in your projects for the year ahead!

 

Happy New Year

The Sin-Eater in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall #HalloweenBooks

Spine-chilling Characters in Real Life and Fiction: The Sin-Eater

Sin-eaters really existed from pre-Christian times to the end of the 19th century. They were summoned to the bedside of a dead person, with the objective of absorbing their sins by eating and drinking food placed on the corpse’s body, thereby enabling the deceased to continue his journey to afterlife in a sinless manner.

Many sin-eaters were beggars, and the custom was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. The last Sin-eater reportedly died in Shropshire, in 1906.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not a horror story, but there some sinister characters and events in the novels, which are set in Victorian England. Last year leading up to Halloween, I wrote a post about a spine-chilling Sin-Eater, Isac das Junot, who appears in All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

If you would like to read an extract of Junot’s visit to Eyre Hall in All Hallows at Eyre Hall, follow this link. If you’d like to read an extract of Junot’s visit to Eyre Hall in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, continue reading this post.

Chapter XIX – Junot Returns

Some things had changed since my last visit to Eyre Hall, but most had remained unaltered. Dawn had not yet broken, and I could see candlelight coming from her window. I presumed the widow was having breakfast in her room to avoid the hordes of fake mourners who would soon be flooding into the drawing room. 

I stood before the unlocked door and kicked it open. A gust of wind and snow swirled into the hall. A maid screamed and ran through a door and down to the servant’s quarters. Was my presence so disagreeable that they were so easily frightened? Could they see what I saw? Could they see the sins I had absorbed and feel the evil I carried?

The house was still. The guests had not yet arrived, but I could smell the corpse upstairs. I supposed he was in Mr. Rochester’s room. Another sinful meal awaited me.

I was about to walk up the stairs when I heard a stuttering voice behind me. I recognised the terrified, long–limbed servant I had seen last year.

“I’m afraid Mrs. Mason cannot see you.” 

I turned, parted my chapped lips and showed him my sharp grey teeth. “I have come to see Mr. Mason, you idiot.” My hollow voice reverberated in the empty hall. “So announce me to his widow, unless you wish yours to be the next funeral.”

He jumped back and babbled some unintelligible words. I managed to decipher the last three. “Please leave, sir.”

“Will you be responsible for Mr. Mason’s permanence in this house as one of the undead?” My voice rumbled across the hall.

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This time, Jane not only allows Junot to carry out his macabre ceremony, but she also has a conversation with him. Why would Christian Jane allow him into her house? Part of her conversation with him can help us understand her reasons.

When Junot asks Jane, “Why do you not fear me?”

Jane replies:

“Because I know that good and evil are two sides of the same coin, just as happiness and sadness, and beauty and ugliness are all part of our nature. There is no good without evil. Each of us has both. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. You chose evil, so you make the rest of us your opposite: good. Why should I fear you?”

“You are unwise not to fear me,” I said as we walked into the same room I had entered the last time. The corpse was laid out, dressed, and blackened. The smell was the most nauseating I had ever encountered. Was he already decomposing? Had his soul escaped before my arrival?

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The Sin-eater not only claims to save the dying from hell, but also from wandering the earth as ghosts, thereby performing a service for the living as well. Junot also claims to predict the future, and Jane seems to believe that he does indeed have such powers, but does he? Or is he a charlatan?

Surprisingly, Jane believes Junot’s rituals serve a purpose, because she is not willing to take the risk of having ghosts at her beloved Eyre Hall. She also believes in Junot’s powers of divination, which are wound into the plot in each novel.

Jane believes that evil exists as a real force of nature, yet she believes that the power of good is stronger and will therefore finally win the battle, which is why she does not fear him. She also believes in destiny, which is why she believes the future can be seen, because the path has already been laid out.

Junot will reappear again in Book 3 of The Eyre Hall Trilogyy, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, to absorb more sins and make a devil’s pact with one of the main characters.

All Hallows at Eyre Hall US and UK Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall US and UK are both on Kindle Countdown Deal ay 0.99 until 2nd of November.